Father Abraham

I’m still here! I watched Sunday’s episode with one diehard (thanks, Michele!) and a couple of disinterested chatterers (grrrr), which made me feel I needed another viewing to say anything intelligent about it. Finally, today, I had time to watch it again — and I’m still not sure I can speak intelligently about it. Sorry, Internet!

One line jumped out, and it was Don’s, in response to Peggy’s complaint that Ted never makes her feel the way Don does:

“He doesn’t know you.”

Does anyone on this show know anyone? Peggy doesn’t know Abe anymore; he’s become so radical that she is shocked when she discovers she’s become nothing more than fodder for his article. She doesn’t know what Ted’s feeling, after his initial (and really abrupt) declaration of love. Pete doesn’t know his family, as Duck points out. Megan obviously doesn’t know Don. Roger doesn’t know Joan anymore… or his daughter, or his son, or his grandson. 

And no one knows Bob Benson!

Betty, at least, seems to have finally cracked the code of Don Draper. Mrs. Francis got her groove back in a big way, from reviving her old flirtatious ways at Henry’s business event, to getting jumped by her jealous husband in a taxi, to seducing Don, just like the old days. Or is it like the old days? She can see that he’s changed, except at an essential level when it comes to his marriage to Megan (or, let’s be honest, his relationships with anyone): “That poor girl. She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.” Nailed it!

Speaking of knowing people: My faithful readers have been sending me all sorts of links this week! When Bob Benson opened Joan’s door to Roger, he asked, “Who are you?” Good question! 

And the Sharon Tate-Megan Draper theory! I love this one. I agree that the ominous tone of this season seems to be building to something big. During both viewings of this episode, I was distracted by the loud sirens during Don and Megan’s brief conversation at their dinner table. I’m sure that’s not sloppy sound editing, but a deliberate reminder that the city is darker and more dangerous than ever before, and that includes the Draper apartment. There were sirens all over this episode.

Leftovers:

No Sylvia! Hurrah!

Megan’s costar making a pass at her… Meh. As they sat giggling on the couch, my husband (one of the chatterers!) joked, “They’re gonna do it.” I threw a pillow at him, and then Megan’s costar tried to kiss her. I felt like the entire scene was a cliched male fantasy, or at least an interrupted one, and I’m just not sure what the purpose was. Someone fill me in. 

Don and Betty in casual camp clothes, singing along with Bobby. To repeat: Donald Draper, singing. Michele and I looked at each other and said in unison, “What is happening!?”

I loved the last look at harried, sweaty Peggy as she glanced from Ted’s closed door to Don’s. She looked like she wanted her knife back. There are so many great themes of pairs and couples in this episode, as the name suggests; if you want to read a better recap than mine, Vulture is great as always.

Line that slayed me: Abe: “Your activities are offensive to my every waking moment. I’m sorry, but you’ll always be the enemy.” Peggy: “Are you breaking up with me?”

Bob “Bunson”’s short shorts!

Talk amongst yourselves! And I’ll try to be a better blogger next week. 

 

Whiskey in your water

What in the holy name of Anna Draper was that? No guarantees, but I’ll try to be a little more sophisticated than I was in my text message to dear friend and loyal reader Michele:

Photo May 20, 10 08 03 AM

My husband wasn’t paying enough attention during “The Crash,” to my tastes, so I turned to the loving arms and equally hysterical arms of Twitter. I don’t know about you, but about the time Minny Jackson showed up in Don’s apartment, I was

Let’s look at this sequence of events in the cold, sober light of day.

  • Don is exhausted, in mind and heart.
  • Don, a 40-year-old man, chooses to take the injection from Harry Hamlin’s quack doctor, despite not knowing what’s in it.
  • Don trips the trippiest trip that ever was tripped.*
  • Don flakes on the Chevy account.
  • Don’s obsession with Sylvia leads him to leave his home unattended (and his door unlocked, in hopes she’ll return?) and the safety of his children is compromised.

All these actions begin win Don. But when Don returns to earth, presumably feeling even more exhausted in mind and heart, he lays the blame at the feet of everyone else:

“Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse.” 

Conclusion: Don still doesn’t understand that actions have consequences. The Tin Man discovered his heart, though, so that’s something?

Part of me felt that a lot of this goes back to Peggy. I’m not saying that Peggy is a stand-in for Sylvia or anything like that. We saw that Sylvia is a twisted mother figure to Don, down to the headscarf she wears at home that matches the headscarf in the soup ad that became Don’s obsession. 

But as the shot took effect, Peggy, touching Ted’s arm in comfort, was Don’s last sober sight. Don hasn’t been the same since Ted and Peggy came on board and Don saw the way she had slipped into the role of caretaker to Ted — presumably without the adversarial undertones that came with her similar relationship with Don. Her dynamic with Don has changed, and he can’t seem to handle it. “Change isn’t good or bad. It just is.” Season 3 Don laughs in Season 6 Don’s bewildered face. The world is changing, and Don’s bad trip show he’s not up for that ride, either. Peggy sees this, and I feel like there’s a sense of longing on both their parts for the old days. She seems regretful that the relationship has changed, but resolute.

I’m curious to know what others thought of this episode! As disorienting as it was, the more I think about this episode, the more I think it was great. It had an undertone of sadness that couldn’t be eclipsed, at least permanently, by any pharmaceuticals.

Uncategorized observations:

  • Peggy Olson is always the classiest person in the room. This time, it’s when she refused to bad-mouth her departed boss. “I liked him.”
  • Peggy and Stan!?** I wanted it to happen, but I didn’t, and was so relieved it didn’t happen, and

  • Betty is back to blond and skinny. “Henry is running for office!” Yes, sweetie, we assumed.
  • Clearly Megan as Maria von Trapp is long gone, but she didn’t deserve Betty’s “casting couch” dig.

*What kept running through my mind was Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come” (written, as so many good songs are, by Randy Newman). “Don’t know what it is, but I don’t wanna see no more!”

**Groupthink:

So groovy now

Last week, Don pulled the ultimate “change the conversation” move. Sunday, we started to see the consequences. It starts with Ted’s introduction to Don’s unorthodox work ethic. (Had Ted asked “coffee chief” Peggy Olson about the merger before steamrolling ahead, she might’ve warned him.)

Don strolls into the first joint partners’ meeting late, as usual. (Hilariously, not as late as Pete Campbell.) Our first clue of his inertia should be his bemused eyebrow lift at Ted’s, “Fleischmann’s. Groovy.” Groovy is not in Don’s vocabulary.

Photo May 13, 11 06 44 AM“He’s mysterious, but I can’t tell if he’s putting it on,” Ted describes Don. The fascination is mutual. Ted doesn’t realize everything about Don is put on, even his name; Don doesn’t know how to react to this interloper that he himself invited into the conversation.

“Ted’s a pilot.” Is there nothing the new kid can’t do? Well, he can’t drink like Don, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Peggy points out. Peggy, for her part, seems to gain confidence with each scene, beginning with her unabashed “I’m for Bobby” and ending with her bold directive to Don: Move forward.

He does everything but, at least until the final minutes of the episode. Don lets himself live out every Madonna/whore fantasy he has with Sylvia, apparently with no thought that there might eventually be consequences. When she finally breaks off their relationship, his tortured* “Please” sounds pathetic and out of tune with the nature of their raunchy interactions. (There was an Internet-famous reel of Don Draper saying “What” a couple years ago. I imagine the “Please” reel would be much shorter.)

I need you.” “Take off everything for me.” Sylvia is every self-centered fantasy he has, until suddenly, she isn’t. The bubble pops, and Don’s back in a bleak world where Kennedys are being assassinated and his business is changing faster than he can keep up. Even when it seems like he’s having a moment of brilliance, his idea is pedestrian: romanticized Dorothea Lange farmers putting margarine on pancakes? Neil Armstrong will walk on the moon next year, and Don’s still in the Dust Bowl era. (ETA: The commenters on tomandlorenzo.com, and the TLo, rightfully pointed out to me that the farmhouse scene was the standard of margarine commercials for years to come. They see this as a sign of Don’s ability to tap into the American mainstream, not his lack of creativity.)

I loved the callback to Ted’s words in the final song of the episode, and especially loved it with the image of Don and Megan on the same bed, but far apart — I think it’s so groovy now that people are finally getting together. Don is a man alone, at work and in his personal life.

Leftover thoughts, and I have a lot of them this week:

  • Burt Peterson is back — oh, just kidding! “Remember Ken Cosgrove? Like a six-foot version of Alan Ladd?” I felt a little bad for Burt, but not bad enough that I didn’t enjoy watching Roger fire him so elegantly.
  • “Now I see you’re about my height.” Ginsberg!
  • “Yes, Peggy, we risked our entire company just so I could have you in this office complaining again.” Don, of course.
  • Joan: “I’m glad you’re here.” Peggy: “Well, I’m glad you’re here.” At least someone’s happy to see Pegs!
  • Peggy: “I just spoke with Dawn.” Ted: “Black or white?” (Speaking of Dawn — where was she?)
  • How delightful was Ted giving up his chair after Pete takes the secretary’s? Outclassed and emasculated in a single sentence: “Moira, take my chair.”
  • Pete’s brother, Bud: “Maybe we can get the paperwork started.” I guffawed, but poor Pete has a lot on his plate right now, and he’s not handling any of it gracefully.
  • Ted’s hilarious slang, in addition to “groovy,” included “rap session,” “free associate,” and “yeah, man.” He manages to be so artsy and so dorky at the same time. (I guffawed again at his reaction to the copywriter who says he’s voting for Nixon: “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you have any hope?” :::headdesk:::)
  • What does it mean when Megan is talking and her voice fades out and the music swells?! That can’t be good.
  • Because it bears repeating … Don: “Peggy, he’s a grown man.” Peggy: “So are you. Move forward.”

*Someone give this man his Emmy already!

ETA: I just read TLo’s take this week, and as usual, I love it.

Mutually assured destruction

I spent Sunday night at a wedding. While I didn’t end up getting sick into an umbrella stand, I did spend Monday feeling the effects of staying up dancing until 3 a.m. for the first time since the last Bush administration. Then I drove three very long hours home.

It figures I’d miss the most eventful and fast-paced episode of the season.

When I finally collapsed on my coach late Monday afternoon, I expected another moody, gloomy episode, again focused on the urban decay of the late 1960s as reflected in our characters. We got 007 instead.

As a (former) reporter, I should’ve suspected one of the major plot twists from the episode title, “For immediate release” — words I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands, of times on press releases. Roger telling Don, “Close the door,” should’ve been the next clue. But like I said, my brain was mush. For what it’s worth: My husband, who pays about as much attention to “Mad Men” as to my other obsession, “Downtown Abbey” (his words), claims he saw the SCDP/CGC merger coming “from a mile away.” I really am losing my touch. (Why are you still reading?)

In any case: Everyone’s dissatisfied, no one is being honest about why they’re dissatisfied, and almost everyone is being impulsive.

Photo May 08, 9 59 37 AM

The Closer

We open with Roger, back to form (I LOVE IT) and using his mother’s death as a come-on. (In case I haven’t made it clear before — he is my favorite thing ever.) Herb, the Jaguar slimeball, refers to Roger in this episode as “Silver Bells.” I’m going to start using that. “I close, Pete. I close things.” Oh, Silver Bells. I’d say, “Never change,” but I know you couldn’t, even if you wanted to.

Of course, Roger isn’t just after sex (this time), just like no one else is really being honest. “I’m tired of rockets,” Gleason tells his partners, but it’s the cancer and the money worries that have him upset. “I’m tired of this crap,” Don tells Ted in the bar. That should’ve been the biggest clue of all. Last season, he declared, “I’m tired of all this piddly shit”* — just before Lane committed suicide.

Strange to see Joan, Pete, and Cooper conspiring at the beginning of the episode without their partners. What an odd group — I wanted to know how that collaboration came to be. But there was no time in this fast-paced episode for backstory. Joan, who became flushed at the idea of earning a million dollars in a public offering, seems angrier about Don dropping Jaguar than about the public offering being threatened. Was Joan upset Don dropped the account — or that his impulsiveness had robbed her of the chance to do the honors herself?

Don, true to form, hasn’t learned anything, as we see later when he boldly conspires with Ted to merge firms. He takes Joan’s “we” and twists it to fit his desires. I loved that this isn’t necessarily a black-and-white, good or bad decision. It may well be that the merger is exactly what the firms need to propel them into the next decade, but the way Don made the gamble makes it hard for anyone to accept. (As Cutler said: “I’m against this idea, unless it works.”) Or maybe Ken’s reference to mutually assured destruction** is actually a hint at what’s to come for the firms.

The development seems positive for everyone except Peggy, who is blindsided by the two men who have been most influential in her professional life (and possibly her personal as well). Don and Ted present the merger as if they’re hunters, bringing home the big game and dropping it at her feet, expecting Woman to be grateful of Man’s manliness. Here you go! Look what we got you! (My dog occasionally does this with dead animals or frozen bits of his own poo.) Peggy… doesn’t know what to think. Don tells her, “Make it sound like the agency you want to work for.” “For immediate release: The agency I want to work for doesn’t include you.”

Photo May 08, 9 52 47 AMObviously, her reaction is tied up in whatever it is that’s going on between her and Ted, whose line of thinking and action toes too close to Don’s for Peggy’s comfort. Peggy and Abe have turned the corner from young romance to domestic drudgery, and Ted has stepped in as Peggy’s fantasy. Whether this is by virtue of his seemingly impulsive kiss, or whether he’d already begun to occupy that space, we don’t know. Abe, God bless him, is trying, crawling around in coveralls and electrocuting himself for the sake of homemaking.

In this light, it’s strange to think back to Peggy and Pete’s fling and see how far both have come. Pete still thinks he’s God’s gift, boasting to Trudy that she’ll be sorry she rebuffed him, because “I have big things coming.” Pride literally came before a fall in this episode. (And glorious it was, but poor Pete had several, and seems to have more coming.)

Leftovers:

  • Of course Roger’s notes are on a cocktail napkin. Ginsberg kills me — “You had to write that down?”
  • Megan would’ve merited more of a mention in a less busy episode. She’s turning herself inside-out, trying to make her marriage and her relationship with her mother work.
  • Marie’s subtitled snark at dinner was topped only by her casually hanging up, twice, on Silver Bells. I got the impression by her long looks at Don (and Dr. Rosen) during this episode that she suspects Draper’s been Drapering around on her daughter.
  • Ted and his turtlenecks!
  • And obviously — “I love puppies”

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Still one of my top-10 quotable “Mad Men” lines, now to be joined by “I love puppies.” Maybe sometime I’ll compile my list. Obviously, “That’s what the money is for!” is on there, too.

**Ken Cosgrove: “It’s mutually assured destruction. … It’s why I don’t worry about the bomb.” You just go on a-sailin’ through your charmed life, Cosgrove.

Thanks to friend Shelly for the GIFs!